Volcanos’s in a Lake
The island of Ometepe is in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. To get to Ometepe you can take one of three ferries which leave from Granada, Rivas and San Carlos on the opposite side of the lake from Granada. We took the four hour ferry ride from Granada to Ometepe and Tom smartly chose the perfect spot to sit which gave us great leaving and arriving views. The ferry is a double decker and foreigners are given a first class ticket and are made to sit up top which is great but leaves the bottom deck for the Nica’s as they call themselves. The top deck is open at the stern and we paid a few dollars more for a deck chair that we were glad to have as the crossing is long and a little on the rough side. The wind whipped up as we crossed between Granada and Ometepe and occasionally a wave would crash against the bow and furl around, up and over the top deck rail. There were several squeals out of the young backpacker crowd as they watched their gear get wet. We had smartly stowed our suitcases inside the sitting area so we were spared the soaking.
|Ferry to Ometepe|
Approaching Ometepe from the north end of the island meant seeing Conception Volcano first and what a gorgeous sight. A perfect cone shape the volcano is still active and manages to produce clouds of smoke on a regular basis. In 2000, increased activity from Conception forced the volcano to be evacuated. It is 5282 feet high and offers the more intrepid traveler a change to climb to the rim and stare down at the lava below. We left that to the young Italian man, Simon, that we met in Altagracia on the first two nights of our stay. He arranged to climb the volcano the day we left for Playa Santa Domingo, he was leaving just before dark and reaching the summit some four hours later, he and his local guide would spend the night on the mountain before descending in the early hours of the morning. We’re still wondering how he made out. We also met a nice young man from Costa Rica who had been in Managua training to be a knife maker. His dream is to return to Costa Rica and be the first to make hand-made knives in his country. He spoke perfect English and had a heavy beard and you would never know that he was a central american from his appearance or accent. Also in our company for dinner one evening was Willie, a sales rep for our hotel (tout) who was in a joyous mood because his wife had just had a baby by Caesarian in the Rivas hospital on the mainland. He had sent his sister and mother along to be with her!
We stayed two nights in Altagracia and rented scooters (from Willie) to explore the island and find more permanent quarters more to our liking. The island roads are made of paving bricks and they make a figure eight around Conception and Maderas, the other but inactive volcano at the other end of the island. They say that the Maderas climb is just as challenging as climbing Conception but since it is dormant most people climb it to be safe and to see the crater lake inside the rim. We wouldn’t know as we had neither proper climbing boots nor long pants! (Excuses, excuses) Leaving the climbing to others, we covered most of the territory possible on a scooter and in so doing so found ourselves an ideal hotel for the remaining four nights of our Ometepe stay in Playa Santa Domingo.
On route we stopped for a refreshment and bathroom break at a rustic restaurant/home and met a lovely woman and her granddaughter that was home sick from school. The granddaughter was getting ready to go somewhere with her grandmother (possibly the clinic) and she was dressed in a beautiful little white dress with matching white shoes which the grandmother touched up with white shoe polish before they left. I can’t imagine what a white dress would have looked like on me at the end of a day on a tropical island where most roads and floors are dirt!
Our scooters took us to the other side of the island and the other ferry town Moyogalpa which is the largest town on the island. Before setting off in that direction we discovered the Olo del Agua, a developed thermal spring. After swimming, a swing in the hammock was followed by lunch overlooking the tropical garden and the pool and more great views of Conception having a puff.
Life On Ometepe
Tourism is important on Ometepe and agriculture enjoys the benefit of volcano rich soil. There are coffee, pineapple, banana, plantain, mango and other types of fincas all throughout the island and families live in dirt floored thatched huts with their livestock and crops close by. One finca we passed had dyed their new chicks bright pink for Semana Santa! There are also more expensive looking houses with four walls and a roof that are likely summer homes for well to do city dwellers. Small tiendas (stores) are often the front of a home and keep the locals supplied with what they don’t grow or produce for themselves.
We spent our mornings exploring the trails in Maderas Volcan National Park and were lucky to see monkeys and birds in amongst the thick jungle forest. The trail is well maintained with black lava rock edges and the young man in the entrance hut was knowledgable and enthusiatic and took the time to inspect our shoes, making sure they were adequate for the hike. Giant ceiba trees stand next to Panamas with their thick tri-pod legs, and it is not ong before you see a strangler fig or a “naked Indian”. Trees are wrapped in ivy and vines hang from great heights reaching to the ground, Tom could not resist a tarzan type swing from one of them. The jungle is thick and the parks people work hard to keep up the trails. This time of the year, things are very dry and it looks like it has been some time since it has rained. We crossed over what looked like a dry creek bed and there are signs that some of the trees are just coming into leaf. It is amazing the lengths to which jungle plants will go to establish roots for water, reach high for their share of the sun or protect themselves like the thorny bark of the ceiba trees.
At the start of the trail, right above our heads in a giant ceiba tree was a family of coco blanco monkeys whose actual size is small in comparison to the deep rumbling growls they make. You’d think they were the size of gorillas! Later we came across some on the trail feeding on ground foilage and one of them thought I got too close and decided to make a few charges in my direction with teeth bared and hissing growls.
In the heat of the afternoons we spent our time at the hotel and on the beach. The lake is shallow for some distance and the wind blows every day, some days harder than others, and there are always waves to play in before retiring to deck chairs in the sand. The hotel Finca Santa Domingo where we are staying is very nice and right on the beach. They have a chef who makes delicious meals from local produce and everything we have tried has been delicious, in fact we have been eating our way through both sides of the menu. Not something we expected here on Ometepe. Tonight we had filet mignon with a mushroom sauce, that was outstanding. Even the uninvited dinner guests have been entertaining (a type of magpie with fancy hats). Around the hotel are the most mellow dogs we have encountered, no begging, barking, licking or scratching. The rooms are 25 USD a night and mine is tucked underneatch the second story with a hobbit door, a stone walled bathroom and a few resident ghekkos who keep the bugs down.